Habit was a dirty word. Like hope, waiting, and boundaries, the idea of habit was a form of discipline I scoffed at as being confining, restricting, and limiting. As a rebellious youth, I wanted to “do my own thing.”
I was not alone. From wild mass gatherings like Woodstock to popular song lyrics such as “It’s your thing, do what you wanna do,” (“It’s Your Thing” by the Isley Brothers) and phrases like “Do You!” a whole generation led America down the independence road. However, just as the proverb “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” says, some of those on Freedom Boulevard fell by the wayside. Many young people were sidelined by such road hazards as drug addictions and overdoses, lawlessness evidenced by rampant white-collar crime, and even blatant acts of violence against the other.
At the same time, while some of us were having temper tantrums and casting all cares to the winds, others of us were determined to bring home the bacon and make the donuts. Morning coffee with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey woke us up to the joys of habitual organization. We went on to find that habits can be powerful, even for ordinary people in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Then Marie Kondo taught us that even organizing our socks can bring joy in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
It is such joy-filled habits of organization that we need now that many traditional forms of follow-the-leader en masse have come to a screeching halt, thanks to Covid-19. The psychological effects of staying home and staying away from others have been disastrous for too many of us, sparking terms such as “parallel pandemic” and “hidden pandemic”.
Indeed, the antidote to cabin fever has come in the form of Zoom Game Nights, daily group telephonic prayers, weekly Zoom business meetings, playing the Animal Crossing game, and soon to come Virtual Summer Camps. Live broadcasts of regularly scheduled religious services, as well as daily picture book readings, abound on social media. Although these regular occurrences are more powerful when interactive, the suggestions of stress-relieving solo activities that can be continued post-pandemic are ubiquitous in articles on loss of time markers, loneliness, and viral anxiety. Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga are the most repeated, with prayer and planning for the future close seconds.
There is now a new method of deep breathing for quick reduction of anxiety espoused by Dr. Andrew D. Huberman, Ph.D., Stanford Professor of Neuroscience. See ‘Your Mental Health: A Bay Area Conversation,’ virtual town hall addressing COVID-19 impact on mental health and @hubermanlab on Instagram. In addition to his breathing tool, Dr. Huberman has other suggestions to buoy mental health:
- Get Sunlight in Your Eyes early in the day for 2 to 10 minutes daily, by stepping outside, if social distancing can be maintained. (Do not look directly at the sun, though.)
- Avoid Bright Light between 11 pm and 4 am. This includes screen lights of all kinds.
- Move the Horizon by setting small, tangible goals throughout the day. Focus on small, actionable, completable, and close goals. An example of one of these goals is to make a cup of coffee.
- Reward Small Steps, internally, by telling yourself, for example, “You’re doing a good job!”
- Focus on the needs of someone else. In sum, “Act, Don’t Ask.”
It may take us all some time to overcome the traumas we’ve experienced during the past few months, but, even though we cannot turn back the clock to “the good old days,” we may be able to resurrect some of our old habits. Some habits, of course, may be more comforting than others. Just think, if we return to a one wage-earner family economy, the old habits of Saturday bread-baking and Monday washday may also become “a thing” in the new normal. https://blog.finnfemme.com/2010/04/wash-day-monday-ironing-day-tuesday/